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Month: July 2023

Making a Place in Our Nursing Homes

Making a Place in Our Nursing Homes

Photo by Gert Stockmans on Unsplash.

To some now living in nursing homes, the Depression and Second World War were not only sections of a history book. It was a part of their lives. Yet, here we are in the twenty-first century. Many of these people remember a time with no electricity, telephones, televisions or computers, things many of us take for granted. And the stories they can offer will be as quietly heart-warming as they are heart-rending.

I shouldn’t have to say these people are deserving of our utmost respect. Still, in this rough and tumble world, where time is money and money is king, sometimes, we forget.

Ultimately, nursing homes need to be “places,” in the true sense of the word. They need to be homes wherein small, individuated moments are defined by a sense of place. These must be poignant moments where we simply say to these men and women, thanks for staying for a while.

The Problems of Nursing Homes

Some of us have no doubt seen the numerous problems plaguing nursing homes. I used to volunteer at our local nursing home in Placentia. I must say I truly enjoyed working with the residents. The first step would see me interviewing them or perhaps one of their loved ones in order to get their life story. Then, using the photographs they or their loved ones could provide, I’d make a graphical display of their lives.

Every display I’d begin with a photograph of the resident in their teens or twenties. It was meant as a reminder to the staff or visitors of how that hunched over silver-haired person used to be just like they are!

Photo by Dominik Lange on Unsplash.

One day, I was meeting one of the residents. When I entered the room, I learned he was elsewhere. But the gentleman sharing his room had unfortunately had an accident that needed to be cleaned. Apologising, I quickly excused myself while he waited for an attendant to come. A little later, I was down the hallway when I heard the attendant who had come to clean this man and the bathroom. She was quite audibly saying, with no small amount of sarcasm—“This is why I love my job.”

For me, it exhibited such unfettered nastiness and unkindness. Of course this gentleman was deeply ashamed. Who wouldn’t be? The last thing he needed was someone making an issue of what had happened. This is an example of only one of the careless situations occurring in nursing homes.

A friend of my mother, a 93 year old woman living in a seniors residence has described how the attendants sometimes push her. It’s clearly a form of physical abuse. It’s something that can take the form of pushing, but also include hitting, grabbing or slapping. Oftentimes, the resident may be suffering from dementia, in some form or another and so, the abuse will go unnoticed.

Photo by Jeremy Wong on Unsplash.

Nursing homes are also the site of mental abuse, with too many experiencing things such as loneliness, emotional, or verbal abuse. The examples are many and varied for the latter, each inexcusable—insults, yelling, demeaning comments and so on. At other times, seniors are exposed to financial abuse by those around them, sometimes at the hands of family or friends. They sometimes lose tens of thousands of dollars. Otherwise, seniors in nursing homes may even suffer from malnourishment, simply because no one is checking to ensure they are indeed eating.

Overworked and Understaffed

Nursing homes are filled with people who need to be fed and medicated given the presence of diseases, such as diabetes. There are some residents who now require assistance with all aspects of their lives—eating, drinking, going to the bathroom. If this assistance is not given, the consequences are both obvious and grave. Although making certain there are people who can care for seniors is a problem on its own.

The problems in nursing homes may be due to the maliciousness of a health professional. Still, they’re more likely due to a lack of staff or long hours and the unfortunate consequences that result from such a situation.

Photo by Jonathan Borba.

Sadly, there’s a global shortage of nurses, something that’s been with us for decades. So, it’s no surprise nursing homes are understaffed. As a result, the workload increases for those who are remaining. The results of this are obvious. High amounts of stress and frustration, a situation that simply compounds the problems and makes things worse for the seniors living in the nursing home. They deserve better.

I’m sure, many would be able to produce a long list of what’s going wrong in nursing homes. Instead, lets take a moment to look at how things could be better.

How to Get There

One of the goals would be to create a “place” from the space occupied by that nursing home. What does that mean?

The nursing home is a location in space defined by an address, perhaps a latitude and longitude for those seeking a more precise location. The goal is for the healthcare workers to collectively make that space—the nursing home—into a place by finding ways to create meaning.

It can’t only be about providing food, a roof over someone’s head, or ensuring the proper medication is administered. These are all critical. But they’re not vivifying. And that’s essential when people are in the latter part of their life.

Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash.

The staff in a nursing home need to usher residents into the places in their lives that have been punctuated with moments of meaning. These are places defined by patience, compassion, respect, laughter, and love.

Creating A Sense of Place

For the residents of any nursing home, their sometimes quiet demeanour conceals a life of experiences—people, places and events that have urged an array of emotions and shaped the tenor of their lives. The words and stories of the people who reside at nursing homes often embroider this history with a deeper, finer and richer meaning. These are lives having been lived sometimes with great ardour and sometimes, with relative ease. It doesn’t matter.

Photo by PoloX Hernandez on Unsplash.

These meanings help shape, colour and texture a sense of place for the people residing at a nursing home. It is essential for a deep poignancy of meaning to be conjured in the words and feelings of residents.

It may be an afternoon spent listening to a gardener telling stories about the many plants that were a part of the lives of the residents. Otherwise, residents may be treated to a show of the music they recall from their yesteryears. Storytellers can conjure years gone by, helping to journey residents into their past. It can be magical.

Changes to Healthcare

In turn, the only way to open the door to meaning for residents is to ensure they are shown patience and kindness. To assist this, all the workers, the nurses, doctors, cooks, custodians, and administrators must be given the time and respect they need.

It is essential they be content in their work if they are to give patience, kindness and most importantly, time, to the residents. They need to be provided with sensible working hours, payment to reflect the work they do, and a simple regard for their lives.

For nurses, in particular, much of the burnout and shortage that has been epidemic for far too long, is due to these elements not being provided. Doctors and nurses, all health care workers, provide life-giving care. Of all people, they need to be treated with a respect for their humanity. Simple and straightforward.

If this can be provided for the healthcare workers, they, in turn, can provide the means by which residents can develop a sense of place in the various nursing homes.

Nursing homes can be places where a share of heartbeats can work to ensure the health and well-being of residents and perhaps most importantly, conjure a meaningful life for them, too.


Carlson, Eric 2023 “25 Common Nursing Home Problems—& How to Resolve Them”

Geographical Association 2009 “Annual Conference and Exhibition: Investugating Geography” University of Manchester 16-18 April 2009

Wikipedia 2023 “Nursing shortage in Canada”

Nursing Home Abuse Guide 2023 “Nursing Home Understaffing”

Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP 2023 “Most Common Problems In Nursing Homes”

The Meaning of Church

The Meaning of Church

Image by Anja from Pixabay

I’m not a Roman Catholic, not even a Christian, for that matter. Nor am I a follower of any other organised religion. Still, as an outsider, I notice a distinct strength emanating from the people attending Roman Catholic church (hereafter, a reference to the Roman Catholic church).

Sure, they heed the word of the higher ups in the church and the Vatican. But, in my opinion, the true might of the church doesn’t seem to come from Rome. It’s right here in the various clapboarded buildings, graced with a steeple, maybe adorned with some stained glass windows, anything the people could gather together to reflect the deep seated and resonant love felt for their faith. In fact, these structures were erected by many of the forebears in the community.

I joined thousands to cheer when the Supreme Court of Canada held the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. (RCEC) of St. John’s responsible for the sexual abuse that took place in Mount Cashel, an orphanage run by the Irish Christian Brothers.

Mount Cashel Orphanage, St. John’s NL, Circa 1975 (Source: Wikipedia).

These findings opened the door for hundreds of men who could then pursue their own claims against RCEC. The cost would likely exceed $50 million. But here’s the thing. In order to pay for their deeds, the RCEC did not plunge their hand into their own pockets.

Instead, hundreds of churches were put on the block to be sold in order to pay for court decisions made in 2021. The general sentiment was shock. The RCEC was now foisting responsibility over to the people. To my eyes, it seemed like a simple replay of the original offence for which they were now being forced to pay.

Yet, they were clearly refusing to do so. How is this any different from decades spent ignoring the hell countless young boys were suffering? How is it any different from years then spent appealing the decisions made by the courts?

And I’m certainly not alone. Some felt much the same in places such as Branch and in general. In Branch, the people rallied together, actively contesting the selling of their church. What they said, in no uncertain terms, was this church belongs to us, so hands off.

Sacred Heart in Placentia (Source: Lee Everts).

Opting for a more passive approach, in Placentia, the people are hoping the fact the church may sit over graves will prevent it from suffering a similar fate as so many other churches. Cemeteries are not included in the bankruptcy proceedings of the RCEC. We have yet to hear the end of that story and can only hope they’re successful.

It seems improper, almost indecent for the RCEC. When they’re forced to take responsibility, they find yet another way to dodge the bullet and still not take the responsibility. Now, it’s the people who have to pay for a crime they had no hand in committing.

The story is the same around the world. After all these decades, with their refusal to take responsibility, the RCEC continues to say, we did nothing wrong—so you pay.

Hand on heart, the Vatican will make its apologies, seemingly honest and genuine. Although, until they actually open their coffers and ante up, their words will ring false.

Regardless, the people will continue to attend their churches, the ones for which they expended great energy to create. It’s here where we must note how the beauty, love, generosity and kindness at the heart of their actions are in no way tied to the RCEC, an entity unto itself.

In fact, the actions of individual priests, bishops and other clergy who are innocent of the crimes as well as the people, cannot be tied to the RCEC.

The actions of the RCEC are to maintain, at all costs, the power of their corporation. The actions of the parishioners have always been to strengthen and fortify the power of their community. People lay at the heart of their endeavours.

Image by Photo Mix from Pixabay.

Gratitude: Seeking Connection

Gratitude: Seeking Connection

Source: Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Every now and then, we’re faced with some misfortune. Sometimes it’s just a trite bother and largely forgettable. At other times it’s significant enough to shift the very understanding we have of our world. Nothing’s the same now.

Well, believe it or not, when we feel adrift and lost, one of the best things we can do is turn to gratitude. You may ask why on earth would we be giving thanks for some grand obstruction to our lives? It feels more counterintuitive and nonsensical than anything else. Aren’t we supposed to be wondering, angst-ridden and bereft, why is this happening to us? In answer, no. Now, it really is the time to be grateful. Let’s take a look.

Feeling Like the World Is Against Use

When we’re thrown to the ground by some unexpected misfortune, our primary focus is on what’s gone wrong. Our heads are swirling with the fact we may have just lost our job. Maybe the one and only love of our lives is now gone. For some of us, the good health we always thought we enjoyed is apparently now thing of the past and so on.

As we know, misery loves company. We’re already feeling bad and so, soon enough, we identify yet more reasons our life is not going well. Like a row of dominoes, our feelings of misfortune gathers steam. So, we’re livid with that person who cut us off and then stole the parking space that should be ours. We so desperately wanted to enjoy that meal, but half-way through, we started to suffer indigestion. Typical. Our spouse put the garbage out too late as we watch the truck rumble off without our garbage.

Needless, to say, these aren’t the real problems. Although, they further our dejection and frustration with life in general. How can we make it stop? Gratitude, you say?

Where Gratitude Comes In

How does that fit? It doesn’t even seem to make sense. Our minds are focussed on everything that’s gone wrong in our lives. But now, it’s an opportunity to forcefully alter our perspective and turn everything on its head. It’s a matter of searching through our life and finding everything that’s gone well—small or large.

Source: Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay.

Start simple. That perfect cup of tea we had yesterday morning was superb and steeped to perfection. The sun just came out briefly this afternoon as the clouds cleared, a beautiful blue sky in its wake. Three days ago, we successfully made the bread we’ve been dying to try. We knew it’d be tricky, but we did it. And we recall walking down the lane a few weeks ago, those pink and purple crocuses pushing through the snow were a sight to behold.

At other times, when someone did something entirely unintended, a light of goodness has shone upon us—a random act of kindness for which we’re now immensely grateful. Otherwise, it could’ve been the time that person tried to help us find the earring we’d lost. In the end, even though they failed in doing so, we’re grateful for them trying. We were still grateful for the intention. All of these feelings of gratitude illuminate something of crucial importance in our lives—connections. And, in my opinion, that’s what being grateful is all about.

What Is Gratitude?

What we’re doing when we show our gratitude is simply focus on all those myriad connections that inherently bind us to our world. In actual fact, by being grateful, we shed critical light on the vast array of intangible guy wires—connections—supporting us. While always present, they’re just out of sight most of the time.

Each of the actions for which we’re grateful, every one is an intangible guy wire giving us support. In their own way, those connections are always there, yielding its support and strength. They hold us up when we’re about to fall. It’s just that we don’t always realise or recognise the presence of those connections. It’s at that moment it dawns on us we’re not standing on our own. And in fact, we never have been.

Making Connections

Once we finally recognise the connections supporting us, it helps to bolster and enhance the links we have with the people in our lives. Again, feelings of gratitude which are a reflection of the connections in our lives are of benefit. They help us realise those relationships have always been there for us.

Being connected (Source: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay).

We’ve now been given reason to further strengthen them. So feelings of gratitude encourage us to seek our the family members and friends who’ve always supported us, the ones with whom we feel a true connection.

Feeling gratitude naturally motivates us for the same reason. It’s more a matter of celebrating the connections giving us strength. Now is the opportunity to take the actions we’ve always dreamed of doing.

Gratitude is about acknowledging the goodness in ourselves. And secondly, it’s about recognising there is goodness that comes from outside ourselves. Again, that’s simply because our essence—who we are—is reliant on the host of connections that link us to our world.

A Nod From Religions

Much of this is nothing new. Individuals who practice Judaism begin their days with Modeh Ani. This is a short Hebrew blessing giving thanks to God for life. Christians meanwhile give gratitude to their God by stating blessings.

We are interconnected (Source: Image by John Hain from Pixabay).

Finally, Buddhists recognise gratitude as a concept of origination. As far as they’re concerned, everything is interconnected. Awareness of our interdependence and interconnection is a reflection of gratitude for the web of life that sustains us. These are the intangible guy wires supporting us when we utter words or thoughts of gratitude.

Gratitude is Central

Gratitude must always play a central role in how we conduct our lives. It’s about being thankful for the vast plenitude of connections at the heart of everything we do. Gratitude is about who we are.